Collaborative campaigning

5 September 2014

Impactful campaigns about poverty or international development often include a unique blend of knowledge, experience, skills and networks to mobilise resources and tackle the root cause of problems.

Meaningful partnerships between Diaspora Development Organisations (DDOs) and International NGOs (INGOs) can be at the heart of a powerful campaign. 

Drawing on the experience of DDOs and INGOs involved in the 'Enough Food for Everyone IF' campaign, this blog post offers some considerations and recommendations for organisations looking to establish fruitful campaigning partnerships in the future. 

Background to diaspora and development 

The international development sector in the UK is large, diverse and dynamic. Many different organisations and individuals contribute towards international development initiatives. This blog post just looks at DDOs and INGOs – two sectors within the broader international development sector which also have a great deal of diversity and at times, cross over. 

By 'International Development Non-Government Organisations' or INGOs, we mean organisations that have not been set up by an international treaty or government and whose prime purpose is to tackle global poverty and development issues. 

By 'Diaspora Development Organisations' or DDOs, we mean organisations where the core aim of the organisation is to tackle issues of global poverty and or development and the majority of the trustees define themselves as being of African, Asian or Latin American heritage and who live in the UK but retain emotional, financial and cultural links with their country and/or continent.

DDOs communities and individuals often have strong social, economic, political and/or cultural links to their country of origin or heritage. They often bring unique skills, knowledge, perspectives, networks and ways of working across borders to the international development initiatives they support. While they are not a homogenous group many DDOS are smaller organisations – run by a small staff body or volunteers and often have modest budgets. 

Reflections from the IF campaign experience 

Be clear about your internal priorities and motivations

Before embarking on collaborative campaigning seek to answer a few questions internally in your organisation, including what are the benefits for your organisation in getting involved with a particular partner or campaign? Is there anything specific you want to push for on behalf of your organisation? How can you best use your expertise to contribute and what might be the longer-term benefits for your organisation beyond the campaign itself?

Build partnerships based on shared agendas

These are more likely to be sustainable and beneficial to all parties. For example, connect with organisations working on similar thematic issues or in similar geographic regions. The IF campaign united organisations that worked on, or had an interest in, tackling global hunger. 

Establish a shared vision

In the early stages of the collaboration make the time to build a common understanding of why you’re working together, what your collective vision is and how you will work together to achieve it.  Including a common understanding of whether your collaboration is designed to be short or long term. 

make the time to build a common understanding of why you’re working together

Involve potential partners as early in the process as possible

Early involvement is key to building a meaningful partnership as not involving partners early on can contribute to them being 'add-ons' rather than true partners and can restrict their overall impact on the campaign. By involving partners early on you can ensure: 

  • Policy asks have input from a variety of perspectives and draw on the full breadth of expertise available. 
  • Public mobilisation plans draw on the knowledge and expertise from each partner organisation about how to best engage their supporter base or networks. 
  • Campaign messages can be developed that best resonate with the different target audiences allowing them to engage on a deeper level.
  • A joint strategy in which all partners are clear on their specific role. 
  • A shared understanding of the financial resources needed and where they will come from.

A number of DDOs involved in the IF campaign felt like they were being asked to endorse a campaign that they had not actually been a part of developing. They felt their ability to contribute to the campaign was limited because they were not involved in the early planning stages.

Ensure representation of partners on governance bodies

Structure and governance are key aspects of any coalition campaign. The IF campaign was a hierarchical structure made up of three groups: the Board, the Organising Committee (OC) and a series of Working Groups, including a Diaspora Working Group. 

When designing the structure of your campaign, seek to ensure that the decision making bodies accurately represent the diversity of the coalition by including representatives from across the coalition in a way that best draws upon the breadth of skills, experience, knowledge and resources that you have available. 

In the IF campaign, a number of the groups included representatives from DDOs. However, DDOs felt that not having representation on the campaign’s decision making bodies meant that they weren’t able to maximize their participation and engagement in the campaign. 

Build and share the skills, resources and expertise of all partners

For a partnership to flourish, organisations should not only consider their own objectives and what they want from the coalition, but also skills, resources, expertise and financial support they can offer.

Many of the DDOs involved in the IF campaign were small organisations, with less than five staff members and with limited budgets. DDOs knew that they had a lot to offer the campaign in terms of their knowledge, skills, networks and experience, but for many organisations it was their first time working on a coalition campaign on this scale and they often did not have the time, human resources or financial capacity to engage fully with a large, fast-paced campaign. 

Two examples from the IF campaign

Media: DDOs and INGOs collaborated on media work through the IF campaign. This helped provide a broader range of spokespeople to the central IF bank of speakers and in turn helped build the skills and confidence of DDO spokespeople to communicate their organisations’ stories, which we hope will continue over the longer term.  

Advocacy: INGOs and DDOs collaborated to host two policy days about hunger and development during the IF campaign - one on Africa and one on Asia. This enabled the DDOs from these regions to best utilise their existing expertise; bringing a differing perspective to some of the other campaign partners and exposing the campaign to a wider variety of policy makers. However, reflecting on the campaign, DDOs commented that they would have benefited from training to ensure that they were most effectively using their existing expertise and networks to support the overall advocacy efforts influencing key decision makers.

It is hoped that these reflections will help contribute to increasingly fruitful partnerships between DDOs and INGOs and add to the building momentum for collaborative campaigning. 

Useful networks

AFFORD

A leading diaspora and development organisation with a mission to expand and enhance the contribution Africans in the diaspora make to African development.

Africa-UK

A project that supports UK-based Africans to influence policy and practice affecting Africa's development. It is funded by Comic Relief through the Common Ground Initiative, with support from the Baring Foundation.

Bond

Membership body for more than 400 UK based organisations working on international development, including a number of diaspora organisations. 

Comic Relief

A major charity based in the UK, with a vision of a just world, free from poverty. Comic Relief runs the Common Ground Initiative (CGI), a fund supporting African development through UK-based small and diaspora organisations. 

Diaspora Volunteering Alliance (DVA)

The membership body in the UK for Diaspora organisations working in international development and UK community development through volunteering. 

About the author

Concern Worldwide (UK)

Natalie Duck is the Head of Policy and Campaigns at Concern Worldwide (UK). She she has built a wealth of experience in campaigning, policy and parliamentary engagement, and mobilising black and ethnic minority audiences in advocacy activities

AFFORD

Stella Opoku-Owusu is Engagement and Capacity Manager at AFFORD. She has over 12 years’ experience of capacity building, fundraising and action-research within the sectors of diaspora development and the general UK civil society.

Sarah Gilbert is a freelance consultant and trainer in organizational strategy, impact and campaigning. She also runs NCVO’s Certificate in Campaigning and copywrites for Azalay Media, a content agency for non-profit organsiations and travel brands.